Saluting the Norwegian Spirit By Elf Habib


His gruesome strategy to snuff out the lives of the youth likely to lead the Labour Party, known for it’s relatively more liberal and cosmopolitan outlook, shows the height of a new morbid fanaticism
The national memorial service for the dead and return of the survivors and bereaved families to Utøya Island, the site of the barbaric blitz by Breivik, once again ignited the shock that rocked not only Norway but every devotee of democracy, peace and sanctity of life anywhere on earth. This sudden spurt of violence on a soil that systematically struggled to swamp violence in the remotest parts of the globe like Cypress, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, Columbia and the Philippines also posed new challenges to reigning western values and ideals for adherence to a dignified debate, dialogue and persuasion for the propagation of various views and policies. Norway is also known for its remarkable record for tolerance, human equality, spread of peace and elimination of conflict, violence, disease and deprivation from various parts of the developing world. The passion for peace in Norway seemed to captivate even Alfred Nobel, acclaimed for his research, discovery and commercialisation of explosives as he initiated whopping world recognition for excellence and utility of research and innovation emanating from any corner of the world. Norway similarly pursued peace in the post Second World War period by being a pioneering member of the United Nations; its eminent lawyer and labour leader Trygve Lie is honoured as its founding secretary general and is still the largest contributor to its coffers. Norway’s care and concern for its population similarly forms a coveted model of social security, universal health assurance, stimuli for higher education and basic necessities like food, shelter and adequate income. Its culture has also tended to be rather equalitarian as even its premiers are known to roam the streets, rushing for their chores like their compatriots, often cheered and greeted by them on a first name basis.
The Nordic countries, unfortunately, have often had to pay the price for their egalitarianism. The chilling July carnage was unprecedented and rattled the centuries old struggle for the secularism and plurality waged for by western civilisation. Norway, like many other countries in the region, also endured bouts of frenzied religious bigotry, intolerance and fierce fighting for the dominance of Catholicism and its reformed denominations during the Middle Ages. The Second World War plunged it into a weird cataclysm of the racial superiority and discrimination perpetrated by the Nazi Reich. The elimination of Jews and gypsies to attain a manifest glory of the perceived original European breed was turned into a morbid drive for their genocide. Norway, true to its First World War tradition, tried to remain neutral yet the lure of its strategic routes and mineral resources was too overpowering for the adversaries anxious for their exclusive exploitation. So, Norway, despite some sporadic efforts by France and Britain, was soon occupied by Hitler and, in April 1940, a surrogate Nazi government was installed forcing out the rightful government. The ensuing Norwegian struggle and resistance against the occupation has now been reincarnated in its Museum of Resistance and constitutes a vivid reminder to countries like Pakistan that are grappling with army dictatorship and the fascism of the obscurantist religious hordes. The devastation wrought by religious and racial bouts nudged Norway to transcend notions of superiority of any particular race or religion.
It has also, rather warmly, accommodated immigrants from almost every faith and culture like Hindus, Buddhists, Bahais, Sikhs and Muslims. About one fifth of its five million strong population are not Christians while nearly one hundred thousand of them are Muslims including about 32,000 from Pakistan. Yet this multiculturalism also rankles some rather refractory factions still yearning for the revival and exclusive supremacy of the pure Nordic breed and Christian faith. Such extremist segments, found in almost every west European nation, have herded into the so called ultra rightists parties. Their ideas, at least broadly, are almost the same as echoed in the 1,503 page manifesto compiled, reportedly, by this monstrous mass murderer. It rails against Islam, calls for a Christian crusade to defend Europe against Muslim dominance and denounces the feminism and reluctance of Christian females to breed faster to match the fast multiplying Muslim migrants. It also praises some conservative clergy, politicians, writers and orators known for their aversion against the Muslim mindset or their advice to adopt and respect western values. He is similarly also known to have demanded to dismiss the premier, dethrone the king and hand himself the command of Norway’s forces. This maverick manifesto, for the people in Pakistan, evidently echoes the ideas paraded by their own terrorists and extremist circles.
Yet the marvellous aspect of the Norwegian spirit, tradition and culture is that the largest part of their populace, major parties and institutions have repeatedly reaffirmed their resolve and repugnance against these anachronistic notions through patent democratic modes, legal codes and the actual construct and conduct of their institutions. Norwegian society, for instance, despite this stunning loss, has once again affirmed its commitment to combat racial discrimination. The dominant desire for peace and the non-violent mood of these societies and espousal to resolve even their most pernicious irritants through debate and dialogue had mostly relegated these forces to minor clusters. Their methods, despite their ardent passion, restive mood and occasional spasmodic aberrations by some individuals generally have not been so violent. The macabre Breivik act, however, has generated a new monstrous trend likely to incite some other dormant cells or desperados. His gruesome strategy to snuff out the lives of the youth likely to lead the Labour Party, known for its relatively more liberal and cosmopolitan outlook, shows the height of a new morbid fanaticism.
A really disturbing fact is that the incipient violent streaks in western extremists, to a large extent, have erupted as a reaction to the raft of violent extremism ravaging Muslim countries. The extremists in the western and Muslim world, thus despite their venom and vitriolic against each other, are out to scuttle the shared world ideals for peace, democracy and a symbiotic global interaction to combat hunger, disease, degradation of the environment and the quality of life and habitat. The enthusiasts of these ideals, thus, need more concerted and trans-border endeavours to extirpate militant extremist thought and practices.
The writer is an academic and freelance columnist.
Source: The Daily Times, Lahore

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